By: Carol Ann Underwood
For Women’s History Month, we are honoring and celebrating women in the communications industry across all stages of their careers. Nadia Worsley is a publicist at Twelve 88 Agency in Los Angeles.
She was also a contributing writer for Traklife Media Group and focused on Hip Hop and R&B topics. She uses her social media platforms to advocate and share her thoughts on women and diversity in the public relations industry. We were honored to sit down (virtually) with Nadia this week to talk to her about her path in public relations and the mentors who have inspired her to get to where she is today.
Q: What led to your love for public relations?
A: I fell in love with public relations when I watched “Making the Band.” Watching Diddy’s publicist run around handling his interviews while sitting in the room with other notable people piqued my interest in the PR field. I was 12 and had no clue what a publicist did. All I knew is that I wanted to sit in rooms with notable public figures and handle interviews for them. The rest is history because here I am, doing what I love.
Q: Can you tell me what your path has looked like in this industry and how it shaped you as a professional?
A: My journey looks so different from the average PR professional. I got my B.A. in marketing back in 2015, and I’ve been freelancing since 2014. My passion for PR never allowed me to give up, and I am hungry for success, so I had to teach myself about PR and lean on some industry friends that I met along my journey. I’ve had to pave my own way in the PR industry because no one wanted to hire me, and I wasn’t going to allow that to keep me from pursuing my passion.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a woman working in PR? How did you overcome this and how can the industry as a whole take steps to fix those issues?
A: I’ve had my fair share of challenges working in public relations. I don’t fit the typical publicist image. If you take a deep look at what society says a publicist is supposed to look like, my image won’t pop up. I’ve struggled for years trying to land a PR job at agencies. When I go in for interviews, I get deadly stares, and I can feel the tension in the room. People judge me before they get to know who I am and what I’m capable of doing. Another thing I notice is that people think that I only have urban media contacts as if I’m not intelligent enough to connect with journalists who work at prominent media outlets. I got past these hurdles by consistently showing up and putting in work. I learned to create my own lane. One way the PR industry can fix these issues that Black and brown people face is to embrace diversity. The PR industry isn’t diverse whatsoever.
Q: Women hold nearly 75% of the jobs in PR. Yet women occupy approximately 20% of the senior leadership positions (PRNewsOnline). Further, women run 30% of all global PR agencies. However, only 7.5% of Fortune 500 companies are led by white women. No Black or Hispanic women head Fortune 500 companies. What do you think organizations can do to help support women in PR and in leadership positions and work to close the gender and racial gap?
A: Companies should invest in programs and training for women and use those programs and training to promote from within. Women are breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings but aren’t being recognized for their contributions.
Q: Who is a female figure in our industry that you admire?
A: One female figure that I really admire in public relations is Echo Hattix. She’s graceful, quick on her feet and worth knowing. She has definitely taken her time to help me further my PR career.
Q: How has she, or other mentors, helped you along your way?
A: I’ve been very blessed to have a few mentors. They’ve all played a huge part in my career. One mentor that I still have to this day is Echo Hattix. She has taught me to get out of my comfort zone. I remember when I worked my first event with her and little did I know she was watching how I interacted with people at the event. I’ve always been an extrovert but on that particular night I was an introvert, and I basically stayed in one spot during the whole event instead of walking around and talking to people. So, at the end of the event, she provided me with some feedback that I still take to heart. She told me a successful publicist interacts with everyone in the room. She brought me out of my comfort zone, and I’m thankful for that. Another mentor helped me with my pitching when I first got into PR, and because of her, I’ve placed clients in top-tier media outlets.
Q: What other advice would you give to younger generations of women who are in PR?
A: One of the most important pieces of advice that I have to share is to build relationships with everyone, not just journalists or who you “think” is important. Lean on your colleagues for support and don’t forget to reach back to help other women climb the ladder.
Q: How can we best empower the women in our field?
A: The best way to empower women in the PR industry is to reach back and pull up other women. It takes a village to be successful.
Carol Ann Underwood is a graduate student at The University of Alabama, working towards her master’s degree in advertising and public relations. She currently works as a Graduate Assistant for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Before returning to earn her masters, she worked in marketing and communications positions in the real estate industry and for a financial services provider.